The film Anchorman 2 satirized CNN’s tendency to invent “breaking news” and “developing stories” out of thin air, and this unfortunately is on frequent display, especially during the early morning “wake-up” call period, and on “Headline News.” One recent “developing story” was about a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf (called a hijab) who claimed “discrimination” after a flight attendant on a United Airlines shuttle flight poured her cola into a plastic cup, while a man sitting next to her was given an unopened can of beer. When she asked the flight attendant why she was not given a closed can, she was told that it could be used as a “weapon.” The Muslim woman made a great fuss over the situation, and CNN regarded it as newsworthy enough to allow her an appearance to explain herself.
Now, I fault the flight attendant for not telling this woman the truth, instead reacting to the Muslim woman’s tirade in an inappropriately. defensive manner. It is highly unlikely that a pop can be used as a weapon. The truth is that almost all airlines serve drinks in plastic cups, particularly soda. It’s a matter of money and availability; soft drinks are frequently requested, and being familiar with the limited storage capacity in even a jumbo plane galley, it only makes practical sense to stretch out the supply. If the woman was “concerned” about hygiene, then are we to assume that she doesn’t order soft drinks at a restaurant for the same reason? No one serves drinks in a can in a restaurant, but likely from the same source served to everyone else. As for why the man was give a full can of beer, I can only conjecture it was because the number of requests for it allowed it, rather than a deliberate act of discrimination.
The Muslim woman making the claim of discrimination, Tahera Ahmad, might have a case if she looked around her and saw other passengers were being served their soft drinks in closed cans. But if they were being served in the same manner as herself, she has no case; the airline has no obligation to accommodate her just because she has a “victim” complex and feels self-conscious about the fact that that non-stop violence in the Middle East reflects poorly on those who practice Islam. Frankly, more discriminatory was an experience I had, when as airport employee an ignorant Alaska Airlines flight attendant asked me if I had the “flu”—meaning the “swine flu” which allegedly in “epidemic” mode a fears back (it turned out to be more myth than reality), and the media allowed Americans to believe it was a “Mexican” disease; when I gave her a cold stare in return, she lamely claimed that it was a “joke.”
Meanwhile, in a story in a similar vein, the U.S. Supreme Court—which besides ruling that it is not a crime for a white person to threaten to kill someone on a Facebook page, only when it is actually followed-through on—decided that businesses can require that employees abide by a dress code, except if it violates someone’s “religion.” Antonin Scalia, who thinks nothing of habitually authorizing the violation of the civil rights of minorities (particularly voting rights), opined that "An applicant need show only that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer's decision, not that the employer had knowledge of his need.”
Huh? Is there any limit to the number of circumstances that must be “accommodated”? The case involves another Muslim woman who was supposedly not hired for a position at a clothing store specializing in “casual” garb because she wore a head scarf for “religious” reasons. Now, I recall a “MadTV” comedy skit satirizing the “image” of Abercrombie and Fitch of buff, shirtless young white models. While the white guys were preening effeminately, in walks three black dudes similarly attired and posturing, demanding to know why A & F didn’t feature any black models in its ads. The answer, of course, is that they don’t “fit in” with the company’s target clientele of white yuppies. Is it discrimination? Technically, yes, but the company would claim that it has nothing to do with race, but with “business.” That is certainly what Scalia would have said.
Being a serial cynic, I wonder also if this Samantha Elauf is actually a “devout” Muslim, but making some political “statement”; I’ve noticed a few black women who wear “native” garb or hijabs as a “fashion” statement and to be “different,” not because they are forced to by their “religion.”
Not all Muslim sects require women to wear a hijab or robes; it is a matter of “interpretation” and accommodation of the modern world; Hindu women in the U.S. usually only wear “traditional” garb for “cultural” events. One also wonders why a Muslim woman who wears a garment denoting religious “modesty” would wish to work in an environment that trucks in clothing that is distinctly “immodest,” other than to make a “political” statement. Wouldn’t it be against her “religion” to work at a place like Abercrombie & Fitch? It seems like some hypocrisy is going on here.